I’ve been recovering from a lengthy creative hiatus, which was caused by both some intense emotional stress and some burnout. It’s always challenging in some way to get back on the horse, especially since I had some bad habits, which I feel are worth discussing here.
Here are some things I’ve tried, and how they’ve been for me:
For a while, I used to try being creative every single day, whether by doing art or writing. I’ve found this to have middling success, particularly because it’s a) a hobby and b) I’ve had other priorities (such as working on my mental health).
This mostly worked in short bursts, when I found a thing I got excited about and experimented with it for a few days to a few weeks or so. Examples of this are when I had a good groove inventing hell trees and developing my illustration skills last autumn. It also worked well when I was figuring out streaming and having fun with it because it was new.
I’m trying something new this time around by setting aside 15min each day to do something, such as reading my book on social skills or doing some doodles. This way I can ease into it, do a little bit, and not worry about trying too hard. Consistency and building good routines are key. Note that I feel it’s not necessary to do every task every day, but doing them regularly is how it’ll stick with you better. No shame if you don’t, though.
I’ve also found that I tend to make really good progress when I put a lot of effort into things, but I’ve found it isn’t sustainable. This is partly because extra effort often comes with higher expectations, which lead to anxiety and other stressors. This is another reason why I’m not going to strictly plan out an hour or longer to work on a thing each day, but instead set aside some loose time to focus in between other tasks. Around 15-30min is plenty. If I go on for longer and get in a groove, that’s cool. Poking around for a bit gives my mind a chance to grab onto something and let my imagination run with it.
High expectations are another thing that I’ve found are a great way to burn yourself right the fuck out. If you aim too high, your efforts will fight gravity by launching straight up and crashing back into you. It’s better to aim somewhere in the middle without expecting too much. This way it’s still fun and low stress, and when it’s inevitably not perfect, then no worries.
Perfectionism is right in line with high expectations, although it is a slightly different beast. I find that when I’m expecting too much and get the feeling what I’m doing isn’t good enough, I get really stressed out with what I’m doing. The stress feeds into itself and I get burnt out that much more quickly.
To fight this, I’ve found that keeping a loose attitude about what I’m working on is key. Nothing I’ve made is sacred. If I go in saying “let’s make a happy little mess”, I’ll have those lower expectations and be in the mindset to have fun. After all, you gotta suck at a skill for a while to get good at it, so my as well get started and have fun in the process.
The point of all this is that you don’t have to strive to be good. Sure, it’s important to work to improve, but do so at your own pace. There’s no rush. In fact, the rush can often hold you back. The important thing isn’t to focus real hard on becoming highly skilled, but to find a way that allows you to practice as often as your self allows. At least in my case, anyway.
Quantity and quality go back and forth. You’ve gotta do a lot of something to get good at it. And they may sometimes seem at odds, but they’re both useful in their own ways. My plan, for now, is to let progress come naturally and to stop trying to force it so much.
Attitude is a topic I haven’t seen discussed much, when it comes to art. It’s a vital aspect, and something worth putting thought into.